A strange thing happened to me today: I received the latest and greatest in wearables in the mail and, after opening the box and rifling through the various bits and pieces, I realized that I was not going to use the product at all. That’s pretty unusual for me: I’m typically right up there at the front of the line, willing to try anything; at least for a short while, but not this product.
Baby it’s cold outside. No seriously, it’s 12 degrees and, unlike the song, I was just stuck outside, trying to get in. Unfortunately, my quasi-automated house did not want to cooperate. I say quasi-automated because I’m jumping into this home automation stuff slowly (indeed, less of a jump and more of an inch-by-excruciating-inch submersion).
For the second year in a row, wearable technology was a major theme at CES. However, anyone expecting a new wearable product that was significantly different from the current mainstream, or new killer use case, came away disappointed.
The last year or so has seen the beginning of a subtle trend towards disconnecting from the always-on world that we live in. Some hipsters have embraced the not-so-smart flip phone, along with film-based cameras and other such curiosities from the technological past. We even got temporarily swept up in it a couple of years ago when I put my smartphone away for a week or so and dusted off my old Motorola Razr. It was an interesting experience, but hardly life-changing. What I learned most was the value of self-control: I didn’t HAVE to check my email as soon as it arrived. It could wait.
This holiday season will be the first major test for the smartwatch category. One year ago the category was immature, with only a small handful of devices in market; the majority of which were not from known brands (the exception being Samsung’s initial Gear watch). Awareness of the category was also fairly low, with only 36 percent of the U.S. market showing any awareness whatsoever.
Tuesday’s Apple event proved, once again, that the industry should never underestimate how successfully Apple can break the mold or flaunt conventional wisdom. Everyone knew two new iPhones were coming – and that they would be 4.7” and 5.5” and that they would look nice, and that they would fit neatly into the current buying, stocking, and usage trends for smartphones in the U.S. (as we discussed in our press release last week). But seeing a mock-up, or sketching something out as a model, or examining a pirated photograph is a poor substitute for seeing something in person. And it is impossible to express how slick both new iPhone models are until you see them in person and hold them in your hand.
As I sat with the rest of the world watching Apple's annual Fall product announcement, I could sense in those I connected with on Twitter a feeling of excitement as Tim Cook finished the first part of the program and led into his "one more thing". Apple certainly did not disappoint. If NPD Connected Intelligence's Eddie Hold asked Apple to amaze him and I've asked companies to push the smartwatch beyond what we've seen thus far, then we both got our wish. The Apple Watch fits what a smartwatch should be- a nicely designed fashion accessory and a piece of technology (that does more than relay phone notifications to your wrist).
I’m a believer in wearable tech. I love these devices (and wear them), but very few manage to deliver anything close to my hopes and dreams. The smartwatch segment in particular has dashed my hopes every time. The products still do not wow me. Why? Because the smartwatch doesn’t add any real value: it doesn’t do anything that my smartphone doesn’t already handle with ease. Rather, it’s just another gadget (and a rather bulky one at that) that I need to remember to charge at night.
My TV screen continued to pass on the DVR’s same little message it had been telling me for the past two hours: “Almost there, just a few more minutes.” Sure. I had optimistically believed that for the first 30 minutes, thinking that perhaps the DVR’s definition of a minute was a little longer than mine. But at this point I was beginning to read between the lines… my DVR box was fried.
Wearable fitness devices have come a long way in the past year, moving from being a simple step counter to a device that helps to track calories, heart-rate, and more. But the next “step” forward will be far more exciting - taking these devices from a singular experience to one that pulls in more data from all around us.